Ban Ki-moon discusses International Women’s Day
Women march in honor of International Women’s Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Washington — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated his urgent call for the international community to unite and work harder to end violence against women, marking the United Nations’ observance of International Women’s Day.
“Violence against women cannot be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance, by any political leader or by any government. The time to change is now,” Ban said March 5.
Ban spoke to an audience of ministers from more than 50 countries and more than 1,000 representatives of women’s groups present for the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women from March 2 to 13 in New York.
Citing statistics from UNiTE — Unite to End Violence against Women — a global campaign launched by Ban last year, the secretary-general said at least one in five women is raped or sexually abused and one in three women is beaten or subjected to violence.
Ban recalled recent stories he had heard while in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where sexual violence and displacement is prevalent, including one of an 18-year-old rape victim who was assaulted by rebel forces as she tried to flee.
“I was shocked by what she told me. I was saddened almost beyond expression. I was also very, very angry,” Ban said.
Ban said he spoke to President Joseph Kabila and to other authorities and vowed to continue speaking against “unspeakable atrocities.”
“Violence against women is an abomination,” he said. “It stands against everything in the United Nations Charter.”
Ban said women, who have often spoken out against this violence, are now being supported by men. Attendees of workshops and community meetings are realizing that “real men don’t hit women. Real men respect women.”
He urged all political leaders and communities to unite in addressing this problem by strengthening laws, empowering women and girls, financially supporting programs targeted to end the violence, punishing the perpetrators and changing societal views of women.
According to UNiTE, 102 member states had no specific legal provisions against domestic violence and in many places laws contain loopholes setting violators free. To combat this problem, Ban is implementing a database that tracks member states’ efforts in combating violence.
“The time to change is now,” he said.
In other opening remarks, representatives from Gambia, Mexico and Australia said their regions had made strides in fighting violence and inequality against women, but much more was needed to make sure that there was an end to violence and inequalities against women.
Yakin Erturk, U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, said she had hope. “The silence against women has been broken,” Erturk said. “I think that women in all parts of the world now realize that violence is not their fate.”
International Women’s Day is March 8.